Gov. Scott Walker greets supporters at an election-night rally June 5, 2012 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
With his own job secure until 2014 thanks to a decisive win in last week’s recall contest, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Thursday offered advice to Mitt Romney on how he could improve his prospects for victory this November.
Walker challenged Romney to define for voters in clear terms what he would do to address the country’s fiscal problems.
“I don’t know that voters are there yet with Gov. Romney,” Walker told reporters at a breakfast in Washington sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “It doesn’t mean he hasn’t talked about it, but I think he has got to have a simple message of not only why we need to replace the current occupant in the White House but also why he would be better.”
The 44-year-old first-term governor said the lesson of his recall survival was that voters will embrace politicians who take on tough decisions.
“Politics is the only profession you get called courageous just by keeping your word,” Walker said.
The Republican called President Obama’s double-digit victory in his state in 2008 “an anomaly” and suggested this year’s race would look much more like 2000 and 2004, where the outcome was decided by only a few thousand votes out of about 2.5 million ballots cast.
Walker said his success in the recall does not mean that the Badger State, which hasn’t supported a Republican presidential candidate since 1984, would be an easy pick-up for Romney in the fall.
“If Gov. Romney looks at Wisconsin and thinks that he can win just because I have an ‘R’ next to my name and he has an ‘R’ next to his name, if voters see that as being just about being Republican, that’s not enough to win Wisconsin,” Walker said. “The way he wins is if voters, instead of just seeing that ‘R’ and thinking Republican, they think of reformer, they think here’s a candidate for president who has a clear bold plan to take on both the economic and fiscal crisis our country faces, and you’ve got a shot.”
Asked about his comments at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event Wednesday that the discussion about spending cuts versus tax increases poses a “false choice,” Walker did not back down — even when presented with the hypothetical 10-to-1 ratio that came up during a GOP presidential debate last year.
“I just don’t believe that the problem with government is that we don’t tax enough. I think it’s not only that we don’t control our spending enough, we don’t use our resources appropriately, I think it’s also there’s not enough out there that helps the private sector stimulate growth. That’s one of the things that I think is missing in that equation,” Walker contended.
“Our country just like our state faces an economic and fiscal crisis. And to handle the fiscal crisis to me it doesn’t make any sense to make the economic crisis worse. And I think raising taxes in an economy like this would make the economy worse, not better,” he added.
Walker also fielded a question about whether his victory was a “death blow” to organized labor, which helped spark the recall effort and spent millions of dollars trying to defeat him after he signed a bill in March 2011 limiting collective bargaining rights for most public sector employees.
The governor said a lot of commentary on the result “overstated in either direction.” He said those on the left who contend it had “no impact” and was “all about money” are “completely wrong.” But he argued that conservatives who think it that it means “every Republican is going to win” are also misguided.
Walker, who was among 15 state officials in Wisconsin to face a recall in the past year, also talked optimistically about reforming the process. Sixty percent of Wisconsin voters in the June election said the recall process should be reserved for misconduct.
I asked Walker after the breakfast about chances for fixing that process in Wisconsin.
His answer? Give it some time: “I think if you give it a little breathing time it makes it more likely.”